Biden to name a critic of Big Tech as top antitrust cop

The White House said on Tuesday it would name Jonathan Kantor as the top antitrust official at the Justice Department, a move that would swamp another longtime critic of Big Tech and corporate concentration in a powerful regulatory position.

President Biden’s plan to hire Mr Cantor, an antitrust lawyer who has pursued a career to represent rivals to US tech giants such as Google and Facebook, indicates that the administration is busy with a growing field of lawmakers, researchers and regulators. How Strongly Supporting the Way Wally has wielded power over the way Americans talk to each other, buy products online and consume news.

Mr. Biden has nominated other Big Tech critics for leading roles, such as Leena Khan, a critic of Amazon, to head the Federal Trade Commission. Tim Wu, another legal scholar who says regulators need to crack down on the tech giant, serves in an economic policy role at the White House. And this month, Mr Biden signed comprehensive executive order With the aim of increasing competition in the economy and limiting corporate dominance.

Mr Kantar, 47, is the founder of Cantor Law Group, which bills itself online as an “anti-trust advocacy boutique”. He previously worked at the law firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Their services have attracted some of Big Tech’s most prominent critics in corporate America, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Microsoft, as well as upstarts such as Spotify and Yelp.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr Kantar will lead a division of the Justice Department that filed a lawsuit last year arguing that Google had illegally protected a monopoly on online search services. . The agency’s antitrust division has also been asking questions about Apple’s business practices.

It took the White House more than six months to get from Mr Biden’s swearing-in to Mr Kanter. The administration has also had to avoid the possibility of Republican support from progressive and liberal factions within its party, as well as a divided Senate.

The decision garnered immediate approval from policymakers and advocacy groups and helped lead the charge for more stringent antitrust enforcement.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who leads the antitrust subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, called Kanter “an excellent choice”, citing his “deep legal experience and history of advocating for aggressive action”.

Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive advocacy group, said in a statement that “President Biden has made an excellent choice to lead the DOJ’s antitrust division,” noting that Mr.Dedicated his career to strengthening antitrust enforcement.”

Makan Delrahim, an attorney who led the Justice Department’s antitrust efforts under President Donald J. Trump, said in a text message that Mr Kantar would be a “great leader” of the division and called him a “serious advocate” with the private sector and government. Experience.

The announcement may be less warmly accepted by deal-makers on Wall Street, who have helped boost the volume of mergers and acquisitions. record level, in part driven by a prolific stock market.

The expansion of scrutiny in Washington over the acquisition has gone beyond headline-grabbing Big Tech deals for industries such as consumer goods, agriculture, insurance and health care.

Justice Department sues to block proposed merger of Aon and Willis Towers Watson first major antitrust action Since Mr Biden took office. FTC announced In March that it was forming a group to “update” its approach to evaluate the impact of pharmaceutical deals, an industry that generally falls under its purview. Then came a report led by Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, investigating deals in the industry.

In recent years, Mr. Kantar has created an unusual practice for criticizing the tech giants from inside Washington’s corporate law firms. Tech giants have become lucrative clients for major law firms, which often makes it difficult for those firms to work for their opponents.

But last year, he left Paul, Weiss — an elite corporate litigation firm — because his portfolio representing critics of the tech giant conflicted with other work the firm was doing.

The firm said at the time, “Jonathan made this decision because of a complex legal conflict that would have required him to close significant and longstanding client representations and relationships.”

Mr Kantar’s critics are likely to question whether his past work is a conflict of interest that should keep him out of the tech giant’s scrutiny. Facebook and Amazon have both said that Ms Khan should recuse herself from cases involving the companies in the FTC, even though she has a background as a legal scholar and is not a paid representative for her rivals.

When asked whether Mr. Cantor would recuse himself from matters involving Google and Apple, a White House official simply said the administration was confident it would go ahead with his nomination given his expertise and record. could.

Even though Mr Kantar has votes to be confirmed, it is likely to be a few months before he takes over at the Justice Department. Congress takes a long break during August — which could push its ratifications past Labor Day.

Cecilia Congo Contributed to reporting.

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